Exploring the Southern Cape

Only two hours from Cape Town, the roads running south leads to the picturesque Southern Cape coast and quaint neighbouring towns such as Bredasdorp and Napier. Transformed from traditional subsistence villages to popular coastal holiday destinations, towns such as ArnistonStruisbaai and Cape Agulhas offer tourists, free-spirited travellers and water sports lovers a range of scenic tourist attractions, holiday activities and accommodation. And in true Southern Cape style, the accommodation and hospitality will let even a first-time visitor feel at home.

Driving through Overberg towns such as Caledon and Napier towards Bredasdorp, one feels compelled to take off your watch and slow down to the 40km/h speed limit on the main roads of most Southern Cape and Overberg towns, where old-school general dealers and cafes still dominate the urban scenery. Almost-regular rolling hills and koppies gradually flatten out into pre-coastal plains. Then you approach the windswept coastal stretches that have inspired many a poet, boatman and soul seeking respite from the hustle and bustle of inland towns and cities.

The towns, smells and sounds of the Southern Cape remain ever unchanging. Everything from the accommodation to the tolling of the town church bells stay the same, year after year. Even Caledon still has the same yeasty brewery smell it has had for more than a decade! And the same goes for the ebb and flow cycles of the Southern Cape’s Atlantic waters. Always there, always waiting to be explored…

Southern Cape coastal towns such as Arniston (also known as Waenhuiskrans), Struisbaai and Cape Agulhas are steeped in a tradition of subsistence-turned-commercial fishing, yet have all evolved into coastal holiday destinations rich in colour, character and rich stories.

Ask of any of the local Arniston fishing folk and they will tell you hours worth of tall tales about this place, about its infamous reputation as a cemetery for ships. In Kassiesbaai, a local “heritage site” in Arniston, curious little people come running at the sight of a camera, while weather beaten old faces appear fleetingly in brightly painted cottage doorframes.

The lighthouse at Cape Agulhas (also referred to as L’Agulhas) is one of the Southern Cape coast’s visual landmarks. On misty nights, its 12 million candle power beam preens the darkness, warning boats of the lurking threat of jagged volcanic rock lining the shore. Despite this beacon near the southernmost tip of Africa, many a ship has come upon grief on the Southern Cape coast. Scattered wrecks in various stages of disintegration bear silent warning against the might of the sea. These make for awesome scuba diving sitesand fascinating photographic opportunities at low tide.

The best and only way to discover the Southern Cape coastline is to get down to the water’s edge at low tide, lose the shoes and poke around at leisure! As for the Cape Agulhas lighthouse: the view from the top is panoramic, but be prepared to get your hair ruffled by the winds up there! The Agulhas lighthouse, a national monument, is open daily between 09:30 and 16:30 and definitely worth a visit.

The jetty at Waenhuiskrans (Arniston), situated opposite the Arniston Hotel, offers tourists, boating and water sports enthusiasts the ideal holiday venue. All sorts of vessels can be launched from the Jetty, with the bathing area affording families ample space to splash out.

Southern Cape Holiday Accommodation

In terms of holiday accommodation, the towns of Arniston, Agulhas and Struisbaai offer a plethora of self-catering, hotel and B&B accommodation options to suit any holiday budget. Whether you are looking for large holiday houses, cottages or luxury accommodation, you will find what you’re after in one of these three Southern Cape coastal towns. Alternatively, if the beach is not your thing, you can enquire about accommodation in Bredasdorp, situated approximately 25km away from Waenhuiskrans and about 30km from Agulhas and Struisbaai.

In most Southern Cape towns, campsites are abound. Book a campsite in the Southern Cape.

Waenhuiskrans, Struisbaai, Agulhas and Bredasdorp all have a span of restaurants and eateries varying from fish and chips joints to classy traditional restaurants and middle of the range eateries.

The Southern Cape coast makes for excellent whale watching between the months of June to December. The Agulhas National Park is well known for its whale watching potential, so make your way down there during whale season to see the biggest mammals in the world!

Southern Cape holiday activities

Southern Cape holiday activities include water sports, scuba diving, boat trips, coastal and deep-sea fishing, site-seeing, bird watching and dozens more… Boat charter companies can take you to Southern Cape fishing spots such as Vlak Bank, Blou Gansie, Saxon and the famous Twelve Mile Bank.

One not-to-be-missed diamond in the rough is Willie’s Bush Pub in the vicinity of the Overberg Test Range, just outside Arniston. This rustic bush pub features an outside lapa, dancing area as well as a small restaurant absolutely riddled with historical artefacts. Nolsie, the resident crow, hops from barstool to barstool. Against the ceiling, hundreds of caps and ties bear witness to the fabulous time that have been had at this charismatic establishment. Willie’s Bush Pub serves great traditional South African cuisine such as braaivleis, potjiekos and spitbraais and is ideal for receptions, parties and corporate functions.

South Africa Rainbow Nation

This name describes the unique diversity of race, culture & languages within the borders of South Africa. The country’s complicated past and inequities are still with us and the goals of racial harmony are still elusive. However South Africans have learned to live with each other and even celebrate their differences. South Africa Has eleven official languages, English being the most common however most South Africans are multi-lingual. Art in South Africa is strong although eternally under-funded. Township artwork (paintings, sculptures & beadwork) is on an upward climb on international markets. This vibrant mixture of cultures isn’t for the meek.

Wildlife in South Africa

South Africa has become world renowned for its national parks.

All the larger parks and some of the smaller ones ensure they have the Big Five, Lion, Elephant, Leopard, Buffalo and Rhino but these are only a few of the many animal species this country has to offer.

A different Big Five are attracting visitors from all over the world.

South Africa’s ocean currents allow for many whales, dolphins and sharks to visit our shores (in excess of 50 species).

The “Offshore Big Five” include:

The Great White Shark – can be viewed feeding from a variety of locations on motor launches but is best viewed from a cage lowered into the ocean.

Southern Right Whale – best viewed from Hermanus, Walkerbay, known as the best land based whale watching site in the world. Boat-based whale watching is also available from various locations.

Bottelnosed Dolphin – the most visible of the five, look as if they are dancing along the waves in large schools.

Blue-Marlin – they provide an unbeatable fishing experience. Found along the East coast.

Yellowish Tuna – simply the most impressive fish of its kind. Found along the Cape Peninsula.

Main Tourist Attractions within South Africa

Cape Peninsula

– Table Mountain

– Cape Winelands

– Cape Point

Kruger National Park

Garden Route

Kwazulu Natal Parks & Mountains

Paternoster West Coast

Paternoster is situated about 145km North of Cape Town, about 15km from Vredenburg and about 25km from Saldanha. This quiet, picturesque fishing village is one of the oldest on the West Coast. It is widely known for it’s abundance of fish and lobster and it’s proximity to the Columbine Nature reserve makes it the favorite holiday destination of many.

During December and January the sleepy little town comes alive with visitors to Tieties Bay, which is only about 4km away. The town has a lovely hotel and visitors can sit on the veranda with a sundowner and watch the sun set over the sea. Whale and dolphins are regular visitors to the quiet bay and fishing and whale-watching tours are on offer.

The history of Paternoster

The origin of the name “Paternoster” has not been proven. Some people believe that it was called after the “Our Father” or “Paternoster” prayed by Portuguese sailors as they sailed passed the Bay.
However, the beads that were worn by the Khoi tribes were also called Paternosters.
The town was originally a fishing village. The shop at Paternoster (Bowinkel) “Oep vir Koep” was originally ‘n fish factory that extracted oil from “tornyn”, a kind of sea-bul. The oil was mostly used for medicinal purposes. The factory belonged to Stephan Broers.
Over the years the bay had it’s share of Shipwrecks. The SS Ismore (1899) and the SS Lisboa (1910), carrying a load of wine, both sank near Paternoster. Aunty Sêrra Pieters (83), who is still living at Paternsoter, tells how as children they dug out the wine vat from under the sand dunes and used it as containers for water. She also sings songs from yesteryears describing the sinking of the Ismore and the Lisboa. A lot of the inside doors in the fishermen’s cottages at Paternoster have been made of wood from ship wrecks that had washed ashore.
Aunty Selma tells how Norwegian sailors regularly came todance at a dancing venue that her Grandmother had at Paternoster. At one stage a sailor forgot his jacket there. Aunty Sêra’s mother, who was eight at the time and as curious as any child, went through the pockets and found a wedding ring. She kept it a secret until she married with it at the age of twenty-one.
Since then five other couples have been married using the ring of the unknown sailor. The ring is still in Aunty Selma’s family.